An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Coolock, Dublin 5
Roll number: 60550B
Date of inspection: 27 March 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Chanel College was undertaken in March 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in three subjects were evaluated in detail. One subject was evaluated in advance. Separate reports are available on these subjects (see section 7 for details). The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Chanel College is an all-boys voluntary secondary school located in Coolock on Dublin’s northside. The school building is located on a large site with extensive playing pitches. The Marist Fathers, who are the school’s trustees, established the school in 1955. The school serves the wider community of Dublin 5, and Dublin 17 and draws its students mainly from five feeder primary schools.
Students come from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Chanel College recognises the principle of equality of access and has an open admissions policy. Students of all levels of academic ability are catered for and there are a significant number of students attending who have special educational needs. The school has a well-established academic tradition in addition to a well-resourced learning support department and student support services. The introduction of four new subjects to the school’s curriculum in 2006 reflects the school’s desire to cater for the needs of all students. First-year enrolment numbers had declined but have seen a significant increase since 2007. First year enrolment for September 2009 stands at one hundred and twenty five and the school has a waiting list in place. Current enrolment figures stand at 425. The school is included in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the action plan of the Department of Education and Science for educational inclusion and it participate in the School Completion Programme (SCP).
In line with its mission statement, aim and charter the policies and practices of Chanel College reflect a commitment to enabling students to reach their full potential while creating a sense of community where students are cared for and supported while being encouraged to take responsibility for themselves and for their learning. This is to be guided in a special way by the key Marist qualities of mercy and compassion.
The trustees, through the work of the Marist Education Authority (MEA), have made a significant contribution to developing the ethos of Chanel College in line with the educational philosophy of the Marist Fathers. The MEA was established by the Marist Fathers to exercise trustee functions in relation to their three schools in Ireland. The MEA has engaged in a process of planning and communication with Chanel College over the last two years. Significantly this engagement includes board of management, teaching staff and parents and this inclusive approach to developing an understanding and appreciation of the school’s ethos is very good practice. It is noteworthy that the mission statement is included in the school’s prospectus, student journal, in all policy documents and is displayed in the school. There are plans to develop an information pack that will be sent to each candidate to be interviewed for teaching posts to ensure that applicants are aware of the ethos and traditions of the school. The trustees have supported the development of a Catholic ethos by the provision of a part-time chaplain, a prayer room and the school is regularly visited by priests from the local Marist community to facilitate the holding of liturgical services. The trustees have facilitated the development of contacts between the Marist schools in Ireland and throughout Europe as a means of creating an education community.
The trustees continue to make significant financial contributions to the development of resources in the school to support teaching and learning. These have included part funding for a Materials Technology (Wood) workroom. At the time of the evaluation, work on providing changing rooms with showers and a resource area was nearing completion. There are ongoing discussions between the trustees and a local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club in relation to a major development of the playing pitches and other sports faculties on the school grounds. These will be made available for use by the school and will greatly enhance the provision for physical education and education for leisure. This development will further strengthen the already significant links between the school and the local community.
During the evaluation it was evident that the school operates in a well-organised manner and with a clear sense of purpose as a learning community. There was an evident sense of community as teachers and students worked together. The management and staff have adopted a proactive approach to issues and a positive and supportive environment has been developed. Students described the school as developing, progressive and as being a safe place.
The school has an effective and committed board of management which engages fully in the management and governance of the school. The current board was established in 2007 and some members have served on previous boards, thus ensuring a level of continuity and of expertise. Training has been availed of, notably with the MEA, in relation to developing the school’s ethos. The board is aware of its legislative functions and has been engaged in school development planning by advancing, ratifying and reviewing a number of policies. Recently, it ratified the school’s updated code of behaviour and it identified the need to review the admissions policy in the light of increasing enrolment figures and the need to develop a policy in relation to dignity in the workplace. The board expressed its great respect for the management and staff of the school and acknowledged the considerable progress that has been made in recent years in relation to broadening the range of subjects on offer to students. Curriculum change to meet the needs of the current cohort of students is an identified priority and the board is fully supportive of curriculum developments designed to reflect the inclusive ethos of the school in line with its mission statement. The continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers is fully supported by the board and it makes financial provision for this.
Proper procedures are in place for board meetings which are held eight or nine times a year. Minutes of meetings which are circulated prior to board meetings were provided to the evaluation team. These indicated that agendas are provided prior to meetings and a report is agreed at the conclusion of meetings. The board also provides an annual report to the trustees on the operation of the school and this is good practice. If necessary, the board will hold specially convened meetings to discuss discipline issues as they arise. This arrangement ensures that regular meetings can be devoted to school development and management matters. In keeping with the school’s ethos, the handling of discipline issues is informed by a sense of justice and by a desire to reach out to the marginalised in society.
The members of the board consider that issues are discussed in an open and frank manner and decisions are arrived at by consensus. Board members stated that while they represent particular interest groups they work as a cohesive group for the good of the entire school community. It is praiseworthy that board members attend school functions such as the awards night held at the end of the school year. All of these good practices contribute to the effective operation of the board. The board has adopted a proactive approach to the future development of the school by considering the provision of extra teaching resources, the further broadening of the curriculum, identification of further areas for policy development and addressing the issue of increasing enrolment numbers.
The board has in place a finance sub-committee and it received a financial management evaluation from the Financial Support Services Unit of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) in May 2008. In addition to making some recommendations this report finds that the approach by the school authorities to their financial responsibilities is very good and that the principal and accounts secretary have an excellent grasp of the school’s finances and provide the kind of back-up required by the board.
The board is aware of and greatly appreciates the range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities provided by the teaching staff and the willingness of teachers to give of their personal time to provide a wide range of activities for students.
The principal is a very effective educational leader who has developed positive and supportive relationships with all sections of the school community. He has played a key role in broadening the curriculum to reflect the inclusive ethos of the school and has encouraged the development of a culture of planning amongst the school community. All of this has been achieved with a clear focus on the centrality of students’ welfare and a desire to build a learning community in line with the school’s mission statement.
The principal and acting deputy principal, both of whom hold post-graduate qualifications in educational management, work very well together as the senior management team. They share a common vision for the school, and are engaged in both short-term and long-term planning. They meet every morning and evening to plan for and to review progress and are in constant contact during the day. On occasion they set aside time to plan for the long-term development of the school and both expressed a desire to involve the staff to a greater degree in decision making. The senior management team has developed the idea of distributed leadership and work effectively with the middle management team of assistant principals and special duties teachers. Both members maintain a very visible presence on corridors, in the school grounds and in the staff room.
Good communications, both formal and informal, exist between the senior management team and the rest of the teaching staff. Notice boards in the staff room, pigeon holes for teachers and a staff handbook are some of the ways of maintaining contact between teachers and the senior management team. Towards the end of the school year the principal invites all teachers to meet with him to discuss and review teaching and the duties attaching to posts of responsibility. This is very good practice. Both teachers and parents expressed appreciation for the ‘open door’ and supportive approach of the senior management team.
The work of the senior management team is supported by the middle management team consisting of nine assistant principals, and twelve special duties teachers. The members of the middle management team all have clearly defined posts of responsibility and exercise significant responsibility in carrying out their duties. Holders of posts of responsibility expressed the view that duties attaching to posts were commensurate with the level of responsibility. The present post schedule was arrived at following a review in 2005 when a committee representative of the entire staff discussed and arrived at a schedule which was considered to cater effectively for the current needs of the school. This review committee is still in place. Teachers are assigned to posts on the basis of the school’s needs but also to reflect teachers’ interests and talents and with a view to building capacity within the school. In view of the desire to build capacity amongst the teaching staff the periodic re-assignment of post duties takes place and this is praiseworthy. Some post holders fulfil the role of assistant year head in addition to other specified duties. This role was first introduced in 2007 and arose from increasing enrolments along with the need to monitor student behaviour and to encourage measures to support a positive approach to student conduct. This is a major commitment by the school in terms of resource allocation. It is therefore recommended that the provision of assistant year heads be kept under review. It is also recommended that, where appropriate, holders of posts of responsibility should engage in CPD in relation to their area of responsibility and consider the production of a development plan for their individual areas of responsibility.
The Chanel College admissions policy was last reviewed in March 2004 and is currently the subject of review by the board in consultation with the stakeholders. The current policy reflects the inclusive ethos of the school by recognising the principle of equality of access, participation in the school and parental choice in relation to enrolment. The policy states that students from all backgrounds are welcome, thus communicating respect for the diversity of values, beliefs, traditions, languages and ways of life that presents. It is recommended that this review of the enrolment/admissions policy ensures that the policy conforms to all current legislation and establishes clear and prioritised criteria for admission to the school. The current policy does not clearly indicate a prioritised set of criteria for admission to the school. This will be particularly important given the increasing enrolment in the school and the need to manage this appropriately.
A revised code of behaviour for the school was ratified by the board in March 2009. This is based on the idea of positive discipline based on mutual respect and has been informed by the recent publication of the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools. In line with the school’s philosophy, students are encouraged to exercise self-discipline, good standards of behaviour are encouraged and a caring environment is fostered and maintained. In line with best practice, the code invites the co-operation of parents and students by requiring them to sign the code and to agree to abide by it. Support for the spirit of respect was evident in the school as posters with the “3 Rs of Chanel” were displayed in the school, that is, “respect for yourself, respect for those around you and be responsible for your own actions”. The introduction of restorative justice practices would be in keeping with the principles underlying this revised code of behaviour and would be worth considering.
Chanel College has in place a fully representative student council. A representative from each class group, with a deputy representative, is elected in May each year, with first-year classes choosing their representatives during the first term. As a means of providing a visible profile for the council a notice board has been provided. A designated liaison teacher has been appointed to work with the council. School management, in line with best practice, and in keeping with the school’s policy of inclusion and of encouraging responsibility amongst students carried out a consultation process on a new school jacket with members of the student council which was attended by inspectors. The council is at an early stage of its development and would benefit from some training and should engage in the development of a constitution. Support for this is available for this through the Citizenship Education Support Team. The display of council members’ photographs and the wearing of badges would further enhance the profile of the council in the school. The presentation of the badges and certificates of participation could be included in the school’s awards ceremony. A council that is clear about its role and functions in the school would be an appropriate body to be consulted in relation to the development and review of school policies as appropriate. The school’s recent engagement with the Green-Schools programme could be supported by the active involvement of the student council.
An effective system of monitoring attendance and of alerting parents to absences is in place. Attendance is monitored both in the morning and afternoon and parents are alerted through an IFlow messaging system when a student is absent and are requested to confirm the absence to the office. Teachers also monitor attendance by keeping records in their individual classes. Returns are made as required to the NEWB and support for monitoring attendance is provided by the school’s participation in the SCP. Students coming late for school are also monitored. Information supplied by the school shows that retention rates have improved in recent years and that measures introduced to provide for the educational needs of the student population are having positive results.
A parents’ council has been in place in the school for some considerable time and the present committee has been in place since September 2008. The committee holds office for three years and meets usually each month during the school year. It has contributed to policy development and has engaged in and provided practical support for many activities organised by the school, for example, providing food for the sixth-year graduation ceremony and helping with the school musical. The committee has sent a questionnaire to each family outlining ways in which parents can contribute to the school in an effort to engage a wider cohort of parents in the life of the school. This initiative is praiseworthy as it will support the aim of school management to involve parents more closely in the education of their sons. Parents indicated that they are welcomed in the school and expressed their appreciation for the care and concern shown for students by management and staff. The school holds a meeting for parents of first-year students in the first term after enrolment and, as part of the support offered, small groups of parents are formed to discuss any issues which have arisen. These small groups are facilitated by a parent before reporting back to the principal at a general discussion session. This displays sensitivity to the needs of parents and a willingness to engage parents in a meaningful way and it deserves to be acknowledged as reflecting the inclusive and caring ethos of Chanel College
The school uses a variety of methods to communicate regularly and effectively with parents. These include: the publication of a school newsletter, visits to feeder primary schools, letters to parents/guardians, parent-teacher meetings, the use of the students’ journal, phone calls, use of text messaging and particularly through the work of the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. Notice boards in the staffroom and on corridors provide a further means of communication for members of the school community, for example, notice boards for the student council and for various school activities. As a means of further developing communications with all sections of the school community it is suggested that the parents’ council and the student council should be invited to contribute to the school’s newsletter. A school website will be in place in the near future and this will provide a further means of communication with wider community.
It was evident during the evaluation that the school regards itself very much a part of the local community in Coolock. This view was expressed by the board, by parents and by members of the teaching staff. Links have been established with local sporting organisations, credit union and the local community provides valuable work experience opportunities for students. Students from Chanel College can avail of third level education through the Higher Education Access Route and exceptionally able students are recommended to apply for and participate in the courses run by the Centre for Talented Youth in Ireland (CTYI) at Dublin City University (DCU).
Chanel College has a dedicated and committed teaching staff that engages regularly in continuing professional development courses and a number of whom hold post-graduate qualifications in specialist areas. Following support provided by the MEA, teachers are committed to implementing the high ideals set out in the school’s mission statement. The school has a teacher allocation of 33.87 whole-time teacher equivalents (WTE). This includes the ex-quota positions of principal and part-time posts for guidance counsellor, remedial, HSCL as well as a full-time disadvantaged area post. The school also benefits from allocations for the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Additional allocations are provided for programme co-ordinator, DEIS guidance, special educational needs and for members of the traveller community. The provision of a part-time chaplain is funded by the trustees. The school benefits from the presence of two full time and one part-time special-needs assistants. An examination of the school’s timetable indicated that it is fully compliant with the requirements of the Circular Letter Time in School, M29/95.
The school uses its allocations to support teaching and learning very effectively. This is good practice as it enables both principal and teacher to review progress and to plan for future needs. Teachers are normally afforded the opportunity to teach their subjects to all levels should they so wish. Providing access to all levels for teachers also helps to build capacity within the school and it provides a breadth of experience for teachers. The allocation of teachers to resource teaching and learning support is on the basis of qualifications and teacher interest and this is good practice.
Support for new members of staff is provided in Chanel College. The range of supports includes: training on classroom management, meetings with the principal and acting deputy principal and the assignment of an experienced teacher to act as mentor. Teachers are also provided with a Staff Handbook. New members of staff are fully involved in the many facets of school life and are encouraged to work with established colleagues in planning for school improvement.
Members of the secretarial and caretaking staff provide invaluable support for the school in general and school management in particular. They operate as an integral part of the school community.
Accommodation in Chanel College is provided in a large two-story building. Phase one of the building took place between 1964 and 1966 and phase two took place in 1980. The buildings and grounds are very well maintained; displays on corridors are noteworthy and lawns and flower beds are well kept. Given a building of this age school management is aware of the need to upgrade the structure as resources permit. The school contains a range of specialist rooms and offices. Specialist rooms have been provided with appropriate equipment. The upgrade of the three science laboratories with Department of Education and Science funding has made a significant contribution to teaching and learning in the sciences. School management plans for the further development of the school particularly to accommodate Design and Communication Graphics which will be introduced in September 2009 and to provide extra resources to cater for the increasing demand for Materials Technology (Wood), Technical Graphics and Art. There are also plans to develop the library into a multi-purpose resource area and a special duties post holder is overseeing this planned development. Teachers are generally classroom-based and they have taken this opportunity to create stimulating learning environments, by displaying charts, maps, photographs and commendably students’ project work.
The school also has a sports hall with stage and storage facilities. New changing rooms, with showers, will be provided in the near future. The school has a canteen where breakfasts and lunches are served as part of the SCP supports for students. The wide corridors are used to display photographs of past year groups, students’ art work and notice boards for current events. In line with the ethos statement of the MEA the school décor includes elements recalling the spiritual life of the Catholic Church and the Society of Mary.
The development of information and communications technology (ICT) is ongoing and the school has two computer rooms. It was acknowledged during the evaluation that these are in need of some refurbishment. Laptop computers, data projectors and interactive whiteboards are available to enhance the quality of teaching and learning. The school is broadband enabled and has made considerable investment in computers and other ICT equipment to support teaching and learning.
A health and safety policy based on the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989 is in place and a post holder at assistant principal level has part of the post duties to act as health and safety officer. Fire exists and routes are clearly marked and evacuation procedures are included in subject department plans. A log is maintained in the office for fire drills and accidents. Fire drills are planned to be held twice per school year and as one was not held in September 2008 it is recommended that a fire drill be held at the earliest possible date.
The school has recently become involved in the Green-School programme. This worthwhile development is encouraged as it will result in the reduction and recycling of waste thereby promoting environmental awareness amongst staff and students. The acquisition of a Green Flag would further stimulate environmental awareness.
The school community in Chanel College has engaged with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) and has developed a culture of school planning which is now embedded in the ethos of the school. The planning process is very well supported by the work of a planning co-ordinator and the members of a planning editorial group. The appointment of an assistant principal to coordinate and to support the planning process is a measure of the commitment of school management. The co-ordinator maintains regular contact with SDPI personnel and very effectively supports teachers during planning time provided by school management. Facilities provided in the staff room, amongst others, include shelving for subject planning folders, a ‘substitution folder’ containing handouts/worksheets submitted by subject teachers to be used in supervision classes when the regular class teacher is absent. There is a range of other supportive planning structures in place and these include co-ordinators to support planning for individual subject departments and for programmes and a programme co-ordinator who is responsible for organising work experience. Effective planning has taken place, at whole-school level, for programmes and at subject department level. Considerable thought has been given to developing a plan for Physical Education (PE) in the light of the planned development of sports facilities. This was evidenced both from documents supplied and from discussions with members of the PE department during the evaluation. Substantial progress has been made in these areas and this deserves to be acknowledged.
The inclusive and co-operative style of management adopted by the senior management team has facilitated the engagement of the school community in the development of whole-school policies. The board has been proactive in the development of school policies and has ratified a number of policy documents, while other policies are in draft form and other areas for policy development have been identified. Examples of policies which have been ratified include: the code of behaviour, special educational needs policy while the admissions policy and the anti-bullying policy are under review. The board is encouraged to include a date for review on all policy documents in line with best practice. There will be further scope for the inclusion of the student council in the planning process when it becomes more firmly established, especially in relation to the review of the anti-bullying policy. The current focus for planning includes the development of a DEIS plan, the development of a dignity in the workplace policy and consideration of how to get the staff more involved in the decision making process as a means of developing further the idea of distributed leadership. A notable feature of the planning process has been the identification of specific and realistic targets which are achievable.
In the school plan provided to the evaluation team, the mission statement, aim and charter of Chanel College set the ethos within which the school will operate. There is a clear statement of the school’s context and procedures for the operation of the school including an outline of the duties attaching to key roles within the school’s academic and care structures. A wide range of policies has been ratified to support this plan. All of this is in keeping with good practice.
The school is involved in developing a three-year action plan for the delivery of DEIS. This is being facilitated by the school planning co-ordinator. Planning groups have been established and an action plan will be in place by mid 2009. In line with best practice the draft plan will be circulated to the board, teachers and parents.
The planning documentation in relation to the Junior Certificate School Programme, (JCSP), Transition Year (TY) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) provided to the evaluation team indicates that the delivery of these curricular programmes is being appropriately planned. Subject department planning is very well advanced and plans for subjects were provided during the evaluation process. Subject co-ordinators work collaboratively with the members of the subject departments. It is recommended that the comprehensive approach to subject department planning be developed further by providing statements of learning outcomes as well as curricular content. This should then be linked to appropriate timeframes, teaching methodologies, resources and assessment. It was noted during the evaluation that recommendations made in previous subject inspection reports have largely been implemented and this deserves to be acknowledged.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Post-primary Circulars M44/05 and 0062/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Chanel College is fully committed to engaging in appropriate monitoring and review of all of its planning processes and this is supported with the assistance of the whole-school planning co-ordinator. In line with best practice progress reports are provided to the principal. Some subject department plans contained evidence of the use of the ‘diagnostic window technique’ to evaluate the planning process. This often involved a review of teaching methodologies and reflected a desire to extend the range of teaching methods so as to more actively engage students in the learning process. This focus on teaching and learning is further evidence on the commitment of teachers to further develop the idea of a learning community. Weekly meetings of the learning support and student services teams review and monitor their respective areas of responsibility. Regular meetings are also held between the year heads and the senior management team where the progress of the respective year groups is monitored and the operation of the code of behaviour is regularly reviewed. The board is also involved in monitoring, review and evaluation of school policies.
Considerable progress has been made in recent years in broadening the range of subjects on offer in the school, additional subjects offered include: Spanish, Technical Graphics, Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies. This reflects the desire of the school to be as inclusive as possible by catering for the range of interests and abilities of students being enrolled.
Programmes currently on offer in the school are the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the Transition Year (TY), the Established Leaving Certificate (ELC) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). There are plans to re-introduce the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) in the near future and this will be very appropriate as the first cohort of JCSP students will complete their Junior Certificate in 2010. The school offers a wide range of subjects across these programmes to cater for the needs of its students.
There is a very wide range of subjects on offer to students in the junior cycle, students study eleven core subjects. The core subjects are Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Science, Business Studies, Religious Education (RE), Physical Education (PE), Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), and Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE). In addition, students in first year and second year are timetabled for Computer Studies during one period per week. A subject department plan for Computer Studies outlined a planned teaching programme. It is recommended that the school explores the options available for providing certification for students who successfully complete this course of study.
In line with best practice, students in the junior cycle are provided with an opportunity to undertake a sampling programme of five optional subjects. The subjects involved are Art, French, Spanish, Technical Graphics and Materials Technology (Wood). Students attend classes over a two-week period in each subject and are given a chance to sample the subject material and the type of course within the various subjects before they choose to continue to study two of the subjects. As a means of ensuring that students have a meaningful educational experience during the sample programme for optional subjects in first year it is recommended that the members of each subject department devise an appropriate teaching plan. This plan should then be included in the subject department plan for the subject.
The SPHE programme, based on the approved curriculum framework, is clearly documented for each of the three years of the junior cycle. The plans also contains clear procedures to be followed in arranging for visiting speakers and this is very good practice. Classes are concurrently timetabled for each of the year groups and this enables teachers who specialise in the delivery of agreed modules to rotate between classes. The school plan contains a policy statement on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) which sets the delivery of this module within the school’s ethos that is permeated by the Gospel values of respect, freedom and love. RSE in junior cycle is included within the SPHE programme and within the RE programme in the senior cycle.
In keeping with the school’s ethos a number of liturgical services for parents and students are held either in the school’s prayer room or in the local parish church. These are facilitated by the school chaplain in collaboration with the RE department.
Recognising the need to support student retention the school introduced the JCSP in 2007. Many good practices were evident in the operation of this programme which is very effectively coordinated. These practices include: the careful selection of students, the ongoing monitoring of their progress with a weekly meeting of the core group of teachers and an end-of-year review. While providing extra supports, students have access to the full range of subjects on offer in the junior cycle. There is very good liaison between the JCSP co-ordinator and the learning support team, the guidance counsellor who provides personal counselling and the HSCL co-ordinator. The co-ordinator has also introduced a number of initiatives such as Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) and is in the process of planning for a reading corner in the re-developed library. As the first cohort of students taking the JCSP complete the junior cycle in 2010, it is recommended that the school reviews the operation of this programme and considers the range and number of subjects being studied by this group of students. To inform this review, it would be worthwhile consulting Building on Success: an Evaluation of the Junior Certificate School Programme published by the Department in 2005.
The inspection team found that the TY, which is optional, provides many examples of very good practice reflecting a committed approach to the co-ordination and delivery of the programme. The TY teaching programme is made up of four elements: core subjects, such as Mathematics and English, sampling courses, for example, Art and European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), lifestyle courses, such as cookery and fitness-training and calendar events, notably the school musical. The musical is produced in collaboration with a neighbouring girls’ post-primary school and a local primary school. Recent innovations to the TY include participation in the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) aimed at developing an enterprising spirit amongst students and the ”Be Real Game” for guidance . TY students are trained in delivering ‘Science for Fun’ to local primary school pupils and the HSCL co-ordinator is arranging training for parents in this area. Students in TY take part in a Youth Leadership Programme organised by Northside Partnership. Assessment during the TY is based on a credit system and parents receive reports on student progress in January and May. A facilitated parent-teacher meeting is held in January where parents have an opportunity to evaluate the programme. This input from parents with further evaluation by students, teachers, co-ordinator and principal is considered when planning future developments. Following an evaluation an extra week’s work experience was provided for students. In line with best practice the year ends with a graduation ceremony held in May.
The LCVP, which has been offered since 2002, the link-modules are delivered by two teachers with one teacher acting as co-ordinator. There were many examples of good practice evident in the delivery of this programme and the teachers showed enthusiasm for the value of the programme. Students are appropriately selected, have access to ICT facilities and undertake appropriate work experience. Close links have been developed with local employers both in organising class visits and in the provision of work experience. LCVP link modules are timetabled when other students have PE. It is recommended that this arrangement be reviewed so that all students can have access to PE. As the study of a modern continental language is now optional in the junior cycle the implications of this for participation by students in the LCVP should be considered and planned for. Those students who do not study a modern continental language in junior cycle will need to take a language ab initio. A positive outcome of the programme identified by the school was the higher level of progression of students to third level. The operation of the programme is reviewed and students participate in this through the completion of a questionnaire.
Work experience is organised by the programme co-ordinator for students undertaking the TY and LCVP. Students are appropriately prepared and receive feedback on their work placement based on an evaluation form provided by the school to employers. Contact is made with employers during the placement time to ensure attendance and to discuss any problems which may have arisen.
In the senior cycle the core subjects on offer to students are: Irish, English, Mathematics, RE, Guidance and for most students PE. Students also undertake the European Computer Driving Licence. In the current year students had a free choice of four subjects from the following list of optional subjects: Accounting, Art, Biology, Construction Studies, Business, French, German, Geography, History and Physics. From September 2009 Design and Communication Graphics will also be offered. This broad range of subjects has resulted from the school’s decision to plan an appropriate curriculum to cater for the abilities and interests of its student body and to create an inclusive school community in line with its mission statement.
A range of structures is in place to support students and to enable them to make informed educational choices in the transfer from primary school and in transfer to the senior cycle both in relation to programme and subject choice. These include visits to local primary schools, an ‘open night’ in September prior to enrolment, visits to primary schools by the learning support co-ordinator and the HSCL co-ordinator following the completion of assessment tests. In March prior to enrolment an evening workshop is held for parents entitled ‘Helping your son to get organised in first year’. In May a transfer workshop is held for students where they are introduced to sixth-year leaders who will act as their mentors during their first year and on the same evening parents are provided with information on books and uniform. In August new students are integrated into the school over a number of days. In November parents are invited to a facilitated meeting where they can discuss how their son is settling into his new school. First-year students are also provided with an information booklet about the school. This very comprehensive initiation programme is clear evidence of a caring community that welcomes and supports its new students and invites parents to take an active role in their son’s education.
The school has recently introduced a mixed-ability class structure for all first-year students and this is praiseworthy as it will enable students to experience subjects before deciding on the appropriate level for study. It was stated by school management that the aim is for students to follow their courses at as high a level as possible for as long as possible. In second-year and third-year classes some concurrent timetabling occurs, notably in English, Irish, Mathematics and Science. It is recommended that the arrangements for concurrent timetabling be monitored and reviewed in the light of the syllabus requirements for different subjects. For example in Mathematics concurrent timetabling after first year would better enable students to follow their studies at an appropriate level given their ability and interest. An analysis of results in the certificate examinations should be used to inform planning for each subject so as to help ensure that each student studies a level appropriate to their ability. Following the completion of the sampling programme by first-year students they receive guidance and support in making choices by subject teachers and a guidance counsellor. Parents and students both sign a ‘student options form’ to indicate to the school the students’ subject preferences. Commendably the form includes advice on the importance of reflecting on the educational and career implications of subject choice.
An information evening is held for parents in relation to senior cycle choices towards the end of the junior cycle. This includes information on both programme and subject choices. The principal, guidance counsellors, and TY and LCVP co-ordinators address parents. It might prove useful to consider having students as well as parents attend this information evening. As in first year, parents and students both sign a ‘student options form’ to indicate to the school the students’ subject preferences. Students in TY participate in the ‘Be Real Game’ which is a further support in making informed career choices before they begin their course of study for the Leaving Certificate.
For Leaving Certificate classes, groups are set for Irish, English and Mathematics from the beginning of fifth year. This means that lessons in these subjects are timetabled to run concurrently for all class groups and students can be taught in the group most suited to their needs for each subject. The school makes every effort to cater for the subject option requests of students and an analysis of the school’s timetable indicated that the subjects included within option bands vary from year to year. This again reflects the school’s desire to cater for the needs of all its students.
In their meetings with the inspectors, the parents’ association and the board of management acknowledged and expressed their appreciation for the generosity and commitment of the staff of Chanel College who undertake the organisation of the co-curricular and extracurricular programme in the school. These activities include cultural, artistic and sporting dimensions. All students are encouraged and facilitated in participating in these activities. Participation is regarded by teachers as a means of further developing a sense of the school as a community and as part of a holistic education. Students are encouraged to behave in an ethical way during sports events and to have a sense of pride in representing their school. Management and the teaching staff support the operation of these programmes.
The school is proud of its sporting successes while at the same time providing activities to cater for the needs of the diversity of its students. With the support of the SCP various activities are organised for lunchtime and after school and guitar lessons are also offered to students. The range of sports available includes: gaelic games, soccer, rugby, swimming, basketball, table-tennis, kickboxing, squash and athletics. Chanel College participates in a range of competitions including inter-schools competitions with the other Marist schools. Students are involved in a number of ways in the school musical, by appearing on stage and by providing back up with lighting and scenery production. Students participate in school tours both within Ireland and abroad. The school choir has performed in the National Concert Hall and the Helix in DCU. Students in TY participate in the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, the Civic Link, and Cooperation Ireland and the Gaisce Awards scheme. Chanel College is twinned with Ballycastle High School County Antrim. Students also participate in the primary school story book project where they visit a local primary school to interview pupils in junior infants and then write a personalised fairy story for the child. Students in the school are involved in a number of charitable events supported by the school chaplain and other teachers. It is admirable that the school provides this wide range of extracurricular and co-curricular activities for its students.
Subject inspection reports reflect the commitment of the school to subject-department planning as does the provision of formal planning time by school management. Subject co-ordinators are in place and teachers work collaboratively to develop and monitor subject plans. Subject plans were available for each subject evaluated as were minutes of department meetings in line with best practice. Where appropriate, plans for subjects offered within the TY were also provided. A notable feature of planning in Mathematics and Science/Physics is the reflection and critical commentary that are included in these plans. Such a level of planning is an indication of a very strong commitment on the part of the teachers concerned and bodes well for the future of teaching and learning in these subjects.
The subject inspection reports for both Geography and Science make recommendations regarding the first-year programme that are aimed at increasing the emphasis on the development of basic skills in these subjects. Other subject departments should examine their first-year programmes in the light of these recommendations. It is recommended that the approach to subject department planning should be developed further by providing statements of learning outcomes as well as curricular content. This should also include reference to appropriate timeframes, teaching methodologies, resources and assessment.
Effective short-term planning and preparation was evident in the lessons observed all of which had clear aims and appropriate resources were used to support teaching and learning.
The organisation, teaching and learning of the subjects evaluated are, in general, well supported by school management. There is a wide range of resources provided for teaching and learning, in the subject areas evaluated, however the guidance department would benefit from the provision of better facilities for the provision of Guidance. In subjects where it is necessary, a high level of learning support is provided for students with identified needs. There is very good access to ICT in most of the subjects evaluated and it is recommended that teachers, through the planning process, find ways to maximise the use of ICT in teaching and learning. This might involve, for example, the rotation on a regular basis, of rooms that have access to ICT facilities.
High quality teaching and learning was evident in most of the lessons observed. In general, focus was maintained on clearly established routines and this contributed to the quality of student learning. Most teachers had set learning objectives in their planning and in some cases these were shared with the students. Best practice was observed where lessons began with the writing of the learning objectives on the board and lessons concluded with the consolidation of learning and the checking of learning outcomes. In order to provide the structure in lessons that allows students to take more responsibility for their own learning, this good practice should be extended to all lessons.
In addition to teacher-led methodologies, in some cases, students were provided with opportunities to engage in practical work, group work and class discussion. In some cases students engaged in project work and activities organised through links with local businesses. ICT was also observed to be used effectively in lessons. There were high levels of student participation and engagement in most of the lessons observed. This was achieved through the use of questioning and by involving students in activities that enabled them to work through the lesson material independently. Teachers supported students by providing individual attention where required. Where a range of methodologies is used in teaching and learning, teachers are encouraged to continue to find opportunities to enable students to engage with their course material in a practical and meaningful way. Where teaching mainly consists of teacher example followed by student exercise it is recommended that teachers increase the range of methodologies used to introduce more opportunities for student activity.
In some cases teachers were careful to differentiate the learning experience to suit the variety of needs in their class groups. This was achieved by the provision of graduated worksheets, by careful questioning and by targeted individual attention. In other cases the nature of the lesson activities, where students were facilitated in working on tasks at their own pace, allowed for differentiation to take place. These good differentiation practices contribute to the accuracy with which student needs can be met. It is recommended that lesson content that is accessible to all students and material that will challenge the more able student be included in all lessons. It is also suggested that methodologies that encourage students to work independently be considered, as these allow students the freedom to work at a pace that matches their ability and to request teacher assistance if it is necessary. The introduction of team-teaching is praiseworthy as a further means of supporting students’ engagement in the learning process.
Classroom management was generally very good. Teachers were very affirming and encouraging of student effort. Students showed respect for teachers and were in general co-operative. From their engagement in planned learning activities and from questioning, it was clear that students were learning in the classrooms visited.
Student progress is well monitored. Understanding is assessed on an ongoing basis through oral questioning in class and teacher observation. In some subject areas end-of-topic class tests are used to assess student learning and in a small number of cases are used to provide motivation for students. Where it is appropriate common examination papers are set, within levels, in formal examinations. All of this is good practice.
There is a whole-school policy of setting homework regularly and systematic monitoring it. The homework set usually reflects and consolidates the work done in class. This is good practice. Completion of homework is recorded and parents are informed regularly on their sons’ progress. Overall there are very good assessment practices in place.
The examination of student copybooks indicated that they are being monitored by teachers and student work, in most subject areas, is generally of a high standard. In others it is recommended that strategies designed to improve the quality of students’ written work be developed. In some cases teachers are providing supportive feedback and advice to students in the correction of written work. This very good practice is in keeping with the principles of assessment for learning (AfL). It is recommended that AfL practices be used as a means of raising the expectations of students. More information on AfL is available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment NCCA website (www.ncca.ie)
Teachers keep records of students’ progress and these form the basis for reporting to parents at parent-teacher meetings held annually for each year group. As a means of encouraging students to appreciate the importance of homework in the learning process the school sends reports to parents on a number of occasions during the school year outlining the number of times homework was set and the number of times students completed the assigned work. The school is praised for this proactive approach to supporting students and to involving parents in their sons’ education.
Chanel College makes very good use of its allocation for students with special educational needs, for students from the traveller community and from disadvantaged backgrounds. Data provided to the evaluation team in relation to assessment of students at the point of entry to the school indicated the need for a high level of support for both literacy and numeracy. The school’s allocation for resource, learning support, travellers and a disadvantaged area post amount to 5.03 whole-time teacher equivalents (WTEs) and the school also has the services of two full-time and one part-time special needs assistants (SNAs). The school has a small number of newcomer students who successfully participate in the school life.
A policy in relation to students with special educational needs was provided to the evaluation team. This policy reaffirms the school’s desire to be an inclusive school and has been the subject of review and amendment in the light of experience. It is recommended that in any further review of the policy on SEN that the policy document should be re-conceptualised and re-titled as a Whole-School Policy on Inclusion with reference to the documents Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs: Post-Primary Guidelines issued by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science and to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) document Exceptionally Able Students: Draft Guidelines for Teachers. A learning support co-ordinator has been appointed who very effectively manages the work of a core group of teachers who deliver support to students. A number of teachers hold or are in the process of acquiring specialist qualifications in the area of special education or in teaching English as a second language. The learning support team meets on a weekly basis to review progress and to plan for the future. Minutes of meetings are kept and the principal is kept informed of developments.
All students are assessed before entry to the school to establish if support is needed and close contact is maintained with local primary schools that complete a transfer information form. These students are further assessed during the first term in first year to establish the particular form of support needed and class teachers also refer students to the learning support team for assessment. Teachers are made aware of the educational needs of individual students, by the learning support co-ordinator. It was noted in subject department planning documentation that the learning support co-ordinator has provided support materials to subject teachers in relation to a range of learning difficulties. Support is delivered by small group teaching, by individual withdrawal from class and team teaching has recently been introduced and is the preferred model by the school for delivering support to students. The model of team teaching includes two subject specialists or a subject specialist and a member of the learning support team working together to plan for and to deliver lessons. The school deserves to be acknowledged for introducing team teaching as a means of supporting students. In line with best practice individual withdrawal is used only in special circumstances where a student is in need of specific support.
School management has provided a dedicated room and a wide range of teaching resources, notably ICT resources for the learning support department. The learning support team requests parents’ permission for their sons to avail of learning support or resource teaching and have provided support materials to parents. This is in keeping with the school’s desire to actively engage parents in their sons’ education. The SNAs very effectively cater for the care needs of students. The school does not currently have an assigned psychologist although it does have access to a panel of approved psychologists.
In keeping with its mission statement it was evident during the evaluation that a learning community where there is a deep level of concern and care for the individual has been developed in Chanel College. The range of supports available to students include: the guidance counsellor who provides personal counselling, SCP, HSCL co-ordinator, visiting teachers for visually impaired, hearing impaired and for travellers, referral to St John’s Centre Glasnevin, an internal ladder of referral, ‘Rainbows-Spectrum’ programme, a youth leadership training programme in liaison with the Northside Partnership, a part-time school chaplain and the care and concern shown by individual teachers. Year heads and assistant year heads clearly see the operation of the ladder of referral as a means of caring for students. The ‘on report’ form, a copy of which was provided to the evaluation team, is designed to highlight the positive and to affirm good behaviour. Before being placed ‘on report’ the circumstances of the individual student are taken into account. The school counsellor oversees the operation of the ‘on report’ system and this is seen as a means of providing further support to students. A group of students, who are sixth-year leaders, act as mentors to first-year students and play an important part in the care of students and in supporting the school’s anti-bullying policy. This also provides students with an opportunity to develop leadership skills and is very good practice.
A care team, which is referred to as the student support service (SSS) team, meets weekly under the guidance of a student support service co-ordinator. The members of the team include: the co-ordinator, guidance counsellor, chaplain, school counsellor, HSCL co-ordinator, principal/deputy principal and the learning support co-ordinator. This meeting deals mainly with students referred by year heads. The best course of action to support these students is discussed. There are clear procedures in place for placing a student ‘on report’ and ten is the maximum number of students who can be ‘on report’ at any one time in the school. This is good practice as it ensures more effective follow-up. The SSS co-ordinator reports back to year heads and form teachers thus ensuring effective communication within the care structures. The attendance of the learning support co-ordinator is good practice as this ensures effective collaboration between the learning support department and the SSS team. This team oversees the support structures in place for students and a policy in relation to student support has been developed.
The school makes effective use of the supports provided through DEIS in relation to attendance, inclusion and retention of students. Through documentation provided to inspectors and in discussions held in the school it is evident that the HSCL co-ordinator plays a key role in supporting and in maintaining communication with all sections of the school community. The HSCL co-ordinator engages parents through a range of activities, for example, by visiting homes, by offering school-based courses, through involvement in the meeting of first-year parents during the first term and by attending meetings of the parents’ council. Parents expressed their willingness to discuss issues of concern with the HSCL co-ordinator. Links with students are established by engaging with the student council and the sixth-year leaders. Attendance at the SSS weekly meetings ensures an important input into discussions on providing appropriate supports for students. Links with the wider community are established with a number of agencies and people, for example with Youthreach and visiting teachers. Support of parents and students from the traveller community is also undertaken by the HSCL co-ordinator. The HSCL co-ordinator also maintains contact with the SCP co-ordinator for the school.
School meals and a book scheme, funded by the Department of Social and Family affairs are provided to students. After school homework and sports clubs are provided for first-year and second-year students as part of the SCP and after-school study is provided in co-operation with a local youth project (Sphere 17). After-school study facilities will be provided to third-year students in the next school year.
Chanel College receives an ex-quota allocation of twenty-two hours per week from the Department for Guidance. A further three hours and thirty minutes are provided by the school from its other resources. Two guidance counsellors deliver the guidance programme. A qualified guidance counsellor who is also a qualified psychologist provides personal counselling as required and delivers the guidance programme to junior cycle students. The guidance programme for senior students is delivered by a teacher who is currently training as a guidance counsellor. The guidance activities of the trainee guidance counsellor are supervised by the acting deputy principal who is a qualified guidance counsellor.
Facilities for guidance at present are limited. The guidance counsellor, who provides personal counselling, has a dedicated office close to classrooms which is not ideal given the confidentiality requirements. School management is considering the allocation of rooms, which are currently being refurbished, to guidance and this would be a welcome development. There should also be greater access to ICT for guidance purposes. There are two display boards for guidance related notices and these are well positioned in the school. Plans to develop the school library include the provision of an area for guidance related materials and resources.
There is close liaison between the guidance counsellors and other members of the school community. A guidance planning team and a co-ordinator is in place and this team meets formally every month and reports to the principal. The principal meets the guidance counsellors every week and they are part of the SSS team and play a key role in the operation of the ‘on report’ system. This is a good model of collaboration and of efficient use of resources The guidance plan identifies as a priority the greater involvement of subject teachers in Guidance and to further this it is planned to provide a half-day programme on Guidance to all staff members. This is good practice as it will encourage a whole-school approach to Guidance. It is also planned to engage parents and students by asking them to complete a questionnaire to ascertain their views on the guidance programme. The guidance counsellors attend information events and are available to parents for advice and information. A critical incident response policy is in place. This policy is a model of good practice as it sets out in detail the procedures to be followed and a critical incident management team in has been established.
In line with best practice the guidance department has established and maintains links with a wide range of support services, third level institutions and colleges of further education and training. The planning team has identified the establishment of further links with local businesses as a priority.
As a means of acknowledging and rewarding students’ efforts and achievements an awards ceremony is held at the end of the school year. This very good practice recognises academic achievement but also student effort and there is a special merit award in each form class. There is also a student of the year award for first, second, third and fifth years recognising the student who has contributed most to the life of Chanel College. Family members are invited to this ceremony and this is another way of involving parents in the life of the school. A graduation Mass and ceremony with a meal is held for Leaving Certificate students and their parents at which the parents’ council play a major part.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· During the evaluation it was evident that the school operated in a well-organised manner, there was an evident sense of community as teachers and students worked together. Students described the
school as developing, progressive and as being a safe place.
· The school has an effective and committed board of management which engages fully in the management and governance of the school.
· The school operates an open enrolment/admissions policy and desires to have an inclusive school where all are made feel welcome.
· The parents’ council has contributed to policy development and has provided practical support to many activities organised by the school and is seeking ways to engage a wider cohort of parents in
the life of the school.
· The school has committed and dedicated teachers who display a real concern for providing high quality education and care for their students.
· High quality teaching and learning was evident in most of the lessons observed. Classroom management was of a high standard; students willingly engaged in the planned learning activities and were
affirmed by their teachers.
· The learning support/resource provision is very effectively co-ordinated.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that the enrolment/admissions policy be reviewed so as to ensure that the policy conforms to all current legislation and to establish clear and prioritised criteria for admission to the school.
· As a means of ensuring that students have a meaningful educational experience during the sample programme for optional subjects in first year it is recommended that the members of each subject
department devise an appropriate teaching plan. This plan should then be included in the subject department plan for the subject.
· LCVP link modules are timetabled when other students have PE. It is recommended that this arrangement be reviewed so that all students can have access to PE.
· As the study of a modern continental language is now optional in the junior cycle the implications of this for participation by students in the LCVP should be considered and planned for.
· It is recommended that the arrangements for concurrent timetabling be monitored and reviewed in the light of the syllabus requirements for different subjects. For example in Mathematics concurrent
timetabling after first year would better enable students to follow their studies at an appropriate level given their ability and interest.
· An analysis of results in the certificate examinations should be used to inform planning for each subject so as to help ensure that each student studies a level appropriate to their ability.
· The good practice of differentiating the learning experience for students should be extended by teachers to all lessons.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:
Published December 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board would like to express its thanks to the inspectors who carried out their duties in a professional manner. As a Board of Management we are delighted to see that the hard work and commitment of the management and staff is recognised and affirmed. We also note that the commitment of the entire school community to the ongoing development of Chanel College is supported by this report.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The Board or Management is currently reviewing and updating the Admission Policy of the College.
The JCSP team is undertaking a review of the programme.
As a result of the report, timetable provision has been made to allow students who did not do a language for the Junior Certificate to do a language component to allow them do the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme.
A concurrent timetable is now in place for Maths after 1st Year.
A separate area for Guidance has been provided in the College thanks to the ongoing support of the Marist Fathers.